Supply and demand. It’s a key question in access to care. Are there enough supplies, enough medical personnel, and enough facilities to meet demand – or is there an excess of supply and a lack of demand? And how does Obamacare affect the supply/demand balance?
In an alarming article released last October (“Doctor Shortage, Increased Demand Could Crash Health Care System”), CNN’s Jen Christensen expressed concern due to an increase of previously uninsured patients wanting to utilize newly-available benefits from the Affordable Care Act. “Combine that with a worsening shortage of doctors, and next year you may have to wait a little longer to get a doctor’s appointment,” warns Christensen, “And the crowded emergency room may become even more so.”
Christensen states at the time of her writing that there is already a shortage of doctors, needing about 20,000 more to meet demand, that about half of our nation’s doctors are approaching retirement age, and that there is a shortage of nurses as well.
We see a similar supply-and-demand issue in the recent VA scandal, with 120,000 veterans experiencing long waits for health care, including those whose scheduling information VA medical centers have falsified or mishandled, according to Dennis Wagner of azcentral.com. A recent round of audits have revealed that a number of VA facilities used unofficial scheduling lists in order to make wait times appear shorter than they really were. RT.com states that according to some, over 20 veterans have died recently because of long wait times for treatment.
These issues raise important questions for our society. How can we encourage more students to become doctors and nurses with an aging population that will need them more? Can we effectively make health care more financially available while ensuring there is enough supply? Finally, how can the management of health care contribute to shorter waits to ensure that care is available to those who need it, especially those who have served our country? We must, more than ever, encourage and foster innovation and creative solutions for these major changes, legislated and natural, that are facing the American health care system today.
Photo Credit: Ildar Sagdejev CC (Modified)